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What makes a clean energy snack “clean”?

Carbohydrates are the fuel that powers our bodies and minds. A lot of different foods can supply those carbs. Some are natural, many are not. Both have their place in an athletes fueling mix.

At the natural end of the carb scale are lightly processed sources like oats and maple syrup. These ingredients are closer to what most people might have at home. At the other end are highly processed sources like rice syrup and maltodextrin.

The more processed ingredients are often used in products like energy gels and bars, and are an important part of any athlete’s fueling mix. They can supply energy in a way that a lot of natural ingredients can’t. Athletes have a lot options here.

But there aren’t many options for athletes wanting to add a less processed source of energy to their mix.

Which is why we wanted to offer one.

We used rolled oats in our early recipes - the same ones you can buy at the store. Steel cut oats worked better in our final product. It’s the same basic oat, but a “rolled oat” is rolled flat, and a “steel cut oat” is cut into 2-3 pieces. 
Our starting point was the ingredients. Within the family of “natural and lightly processed”, we were looking for two things. Foods that are high in carbohydrates, and foods that taste great. Most we found were one or the other. Some were both.

Once we had a list of ingredients, we did a ton of experimenting at home with different recipes. Then we worked with a classically trained chef to help us strike the right balance between energy content and great taste. We ended up with 5 recipes that did it really well. 

Of the 5, we chose “oatmeal with apple and cinnamon” to be our first flavor. It tasted like apple pie…and who doesn’t love apple pie?

Turning our home-made recipe into a product we could sell was a bigger jump than we expected. We’d have to keep the energy content and taste we liked, while making it shelf-stable (no refrigeration needed).

The easy way to achieve all of that is by using artificial additives and/or highly processed ingredients. But that would have made Clean Fuel the same as all of the sports foods that we wanted to give athletes an alternative to. And we didn’t want that.

Our early recipe prototypes used apple pieces. That meant peeling and coring each apple, then cutting it into pieces that were the exact size we needed. Thankfully we found a supplier who could do that work for us. Our final production recipe uses dried apple pieces, cut to a very specific size.

Here’s how we kept it natural.

Oats met the taste and energy requirement. The oats we use are gluten-free “steel-cut”, which means the oat grain is harvested, then “cut” into 2-3 pieces by “steel” blades.

We use two organic apple ingredients: dried apples and apple juice concentrate. Both bring flavor and energy to the mix. Both are sulphide-free.

Then there’s lemon juice concentrate and cinnamon (both organic). Both add flavor.

To make Clean Fuel “naturally” shelf-stable, there are two parts.

The first is the apple and lemon juice concentrate. Combined, they act as natural preservatives. The second is how we cook the mix (which is pretty much the same as how you’d do it at home).

During the cooking, some ingredients can lose a little flavor. So we add a drop of natural flavors to compensate. These are made from spice, fruit, vegetable, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant extracts. This also ensures that it tastes as good on day 300 of shelf life as it does on day 1.

So there you have it.

Not exactly the quickest or easiest way to make an energy snack…but when you’re making something different to what’s already out there, and you want to make it really good, time can be the most important ingredient.

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